The Capitals were behind the eight-ball early in the game, two Islanders' goals from Michael Grabner and Josh Bailey (2:32 apart) in the first quieting the Verizon Center crowd. The Red Rocking faithful would remain quiet until the second period when leading point scorer Mike Ribeiro brought the home team within one, before defenseman John Carlson tied the game with seven minutes to play in the second.
The happiness would be brief, however, as Islanders' leading goal scorer John Tavares would give New York a lead they would not relinquish with five minutes left in the third period. With the Winnipeg Jets taking two points from the Carolina Hurricanes the Capitals sit seven points back in the Southeast Division.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Entering tonight's contest, Evgeni Nabokov had compiled an impressive 11-1-2 career stat line against the Capitals. With only a single win against the netminder any points would be welcome on Tuesday night, but Tavares made sure Washington would improve the Russian's stat line to an even twelve career wins.
- Tough to blame Braden Holtby on either of the Islanders' first two goals with Washington's defense running around below their own hashmarks attempting to gain control of the puck. Both Grabner and Bailey took good passes from Keith Aucoin and Kyle Okposo before depositing the puck into an empty area of the net. The Capitals were down before the game was ten minutes old but the blame can't be shouldered by Holtby alone.
- Both the Islanders and Capitals entered tonight's contest with 31 standings points, the two teams locked in the Eastern Conference Playoff Race. By virture of a regulation win New York jumped ahead of both Washington and Carolina, yet another team to overcome by the regular season's conclusion on April 27th.
- Washington was handily outshot by the Islanders, the visitors putting 31 shots on Holtby (compared to 22 from the home team). Despite having an early two goal lead the Islanders continued to possess the puck in the Capitals' defensive zone and forced Holtby to keep the home team close. With a bit more offensive pressure Washington might've been able to tie the game.
- Islanders' Captain John Tavares was quiet through the game's first two periods (-1 ranking, 0 shots) but hit pay dirt late in the third period, stashing a Matt Moulson pass behind Holtby for his twentieth of the season. Capitals defenseman Mike Green lost sight of the puck to the net's right, Moulson finding it and putting it on Tavares' stick before Holtby or the defense could refocus.
- Centerman Nicklas Backstrom was kept pointless by the Islanders' defense, the Capitals' first line center held to two shots in over twenty two minutes of ice (22:04), almost four of which was with the man advantage. While Tavares jumped on an opportunity late in the game to score the GWG Backstrom was quieter than Tavares in three extra minutes of ice.
- Alex Ovechkin has been blazing trails through East Coast ice rinks for the past week, earning First Star accolades from the NHL and more notably serving up a fresh-steamed plate of crow for one Mike Milbury. Tonight Ovechkin was held in check by Jack Capuano's Islanders, the Captain tallying a single assist (and four shots) in twenty three minutes of ice (23:35).
- Mike Ribeiro tallied his eleventh goal of the season in the second period, the centerman putting two shots on Nabakov in nineteen minutes of ice time (19:47). The April 3rd NHL Trade Deadline is fast approaching, eight days from tonight, and General Manager George McPhee will need to make a decision with Ribeiro sooner rather than later should this loss put the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs out of reach.
- Versatile forward Brooks Laich was notably absent from the scoresheet, the winger skating to a -2 ranking and putting only a single shot on goal in twenty minutes of work (19:41). Laich is far more influential than his impact on the scoresheet, but with his team playing from behind in a majority of the contest a point either way would've changed the outcome.
- Despite impressive possession numbers, it's twice now taken injury among the forward corps to get Wojtek Wolski back in the Capitals' lineup. The Polish winger skated under seven minutes for Head Coach Adam Oates (6:51), unable to register a single shot on net. With so few shifts Wolski must maximize his impact whenever he hops over the boards.
Tonight's loss does not seal Washington's fate as sellers come the trade deadline, nor as being out of the Eastern Conference Playoff Race, although the Islanders' two points puts yet another team between the Capitals and eighth place in the East. The Capitals are off to Buffalo to face the Sabres on Saturday, two imperative points on the line in the quest to continue the 2013 season.